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|TROPICAL PLANT CATALOG||Printer friendly page|
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Origin: South America
Tropical shrub cultivated in Africa, northern South America, southeast Asia, and Taiwan. It grows from 2-4m (8 feet) tall. The fruits are small drupes. The plants thrive best in hot, damp situations, such as the clearing of forests, but the leaves most preferred are obtained in drier locations, such as on the sides of hills. The tradition of chewing of coca leaves is deeply fixed among the Andes Indians, farmers and miners, who use it to arouse physical energy, and to fight against pain, hunger and thirst. The leaves of the coca plant are chewed socially throughout the South American Andes as a stimulant and to protect against the effects of high elevation. It has a long history of human use. The leaves are the poisonous parts of the plant.
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